Blacksmith Master preview: I’m in love with a smithy

Blacksmith Master's demo is an evocative and fun follow-up to Untitled Studio's Tavern Master – and the titular blacksmith can smelt me anytime.
Blacksmith Master demo

As someone who has put countless hours into Untitled Studio’s first venture, Tavern Master, I knew that the chances of me being extremely into a blacksmith-themed follow-up were already pretty high. I have historically loved blacksmith content – from playing The Sims: Medieval to choosing to marry Balimund in every Skyrim playthrough, to telling everyone in earshot that my goal for 2024 is to make a knife.

I am the exact target market for Blacksmith Master, and even I didn’t anticipate how much I would fall in love with this game.

The Blacksmith Master demo is a sharp, quick affair with a simple premise: make stuff, sell stuff, thrive. In the same vein as its predecessor, you are tasked with crafting a legacy. In between building everything from metal tankards to wooden pitchforks, players must hire fellow blacksmiths, assistants, cashiers and more. After all, expanding your shop is crucial as you take on bigger and bigger assignments.

For a demo, it’s surprisingly encompassing. The music, ambiance, colours and vibes are all spot-on, and though the world still feels a little empty – which will undoubtedly be fixed in early access, given Tavern Master goes almost entirely in the opposite direction – it’s pleasantly evocative.

Sometimes, when the music and ambience hits just right, I like to have a game running idle next to me while I work, or write for fun. Blacksmith Master definitely qualifies, and I’ve found myself absent-mindedly enjoying the vibes even when I’m not actively playing.

The snippet that we’ve seen as part of this demo is only a fraction of what the game has promised. In the announcement trailer last year, we saw mining feature as part of Blacksmith Master‘s core gameplay – an element that didn’t make it to the demo. Instead, we focus mostly on the comings and goings of the shop itself. For now, the ore, which the assistants painstakingly smelt, comes from a nearby warehouse.

It will be interesting to see how this feature is incorporated, given it seems to take place in an entirely separate location (unless there are unexpected mines buried deep below the town). Giving players a new locale to investigate would be a great way to help expand the world – something that I would have loved in Tavern Master.

Additionally, we only got to explore a fraction of the potential items we can unlock as Blacksmith Master progresses. Higher skill unlocks higher grade items, and a variety of ores to work with. Already it seems like there will be a breadth to the game that I look forward to delving deep into when it makes it to a full release.

Blacksmith Master - task
Image: Untitled Studio

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There’s something very methodical about games like Blacksmith Master. I very easily find myself slipping into an almost fugue state, painstakingly completing mini-games in each section of the crafting process (a welcome addition, simple as they are). As someone who is prone to an all-or-nothing attention span, Blacksmith Master well and truly has its hooks in me – I’m all in.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still some elements that could use polish – some unrefined ore, if I may. The instructions aren’t always clear, some of the design isn’t particularly intuitive, and – as was my main gripe for Tavern Master – there’s no way to simply move a wall if you want to relocate. You’ve got to tear the whole thing down and build entirely fresh.

While I understand that this can contribute to the realism of the game – you can’t exactly just shove a wall a couple of metres back in the real world – I do feel that games like The Sims have made players a bit spoilt when it comes to manoeuvrability in games like this.

Why did they make the titular Blacksmith Master so hot?

Unlike Tavern Master, where you act as an omniscient overlord, Blacksmith Master sees you fill the shoes of an actual little guy, who participates in the smithing process in a far more hands-on way. You still control the flow of the shop – from hiring and firing through to deciding which jobs to take on – but you also have the option to physically craft the items yourself.

Here’s where I know I’ll lose some of you. I know this, because it’s where I’ve lost a lot of the friends I’ve ranted to about this game. But I’ll say it nonetheless, because I live in my truth: despite his limited pixels, the default character is one unreasonably hot blacksmith.

With burly arms, rolled up sleeves, a beard and a topknot, I’ll just say that it’s very clear developer Luka Glavonjić of Untitled Studio is going for a very specific vibe – and it’s a vibe that works.

According to the Tavern & Blacksmith Master Discord server, Glavonjić does intend to eventually introduce a degree of character customisation, but to that I say (at least, personally): no thank you. I will stick it out with this glorious blacksmith – the same way I stuck it out with Balimund. In every run, in every lifetime.

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When can we expect Blacksmith Master to enter early access?

If you’re as impatient as I am, you’re probably also wondering how soon we’ll get our grubby little hands on more of the game. Fortunately, we’re not alone – and others have already begun wondering. In the Discord, Glavonjić responded to a similar question, saying, “Current plan is to release the early access version very soon”.

“For Tavern Master, I went from demo in June (called TM – Prologue) straight to full release in November (no early access),” said Glavonjić. “Then I spend [sic] 2 years producing new content and updates, so I feel I should have done early access and properly communicated what I work on and when.”

“For this game I plan to do early access, which will have more content than TM had, and then commit to 1-2 years of more development before proper full release … I think it’s very important to include the community when you’re a solo dev,” Glavonjić said. “I become really biased over time.”

Steph Panecasio is the Managing Editor of GamesHub. An award-winning culture and games journalist with an interest in all things spooky, she knows a lot about death but not enough about keeping her plants alive. Find her on all platforms as @StephPanecasio for ramblings about Lord of the Rings and her current WIP novel.